The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries            W.Y. Evans Wentz
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries                                                      Table of ContentsThe Fairy−Faith ...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries                                          W.Y. Evans WentzThis page copyright © 2001 Bl...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesBrittany, for the Degree of Docteur−es−Lettres. Since then I have re−investigated the w...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesUniversity of Rennes, I shall always remember the friendly individual assistance offere...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries                                                  Oxford                               ...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesAncients called its inhabitants gods, genii, daemons, and shades; Christianity knows th...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesphysical sciences. Folk−lore, a century ago was considered beneath the serious consider...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesundertaking: partly Celtic myself by blood and perhaps largely so by temperament, I fou...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesto the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but after explaining this exter...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries(2) Cf. David MacRitchies published criticisms of our Psychological Theory in The Celti...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countrieshave ceased to be natural. Wherever under modern conditions great multitudes of men and...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesAt all events, and equally for the unbeliever and for the believer, the study of the Fa...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesmany Celts native of the two countries ÷ they who have the first right to testify; and ...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesWhen black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind−driven vertical water−she...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesin one day, or each may endure for a day; and the dark days last nearly all the winter....
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries                                           IN THE ISLE OF MANIn the midst of the Irish ...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesconstitution and freedom, and though geographically at the very centre of the United Ki...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries[11]against the Roman eagles ÷ and its little island called Holy−head, facing Ireland.H...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries(1) In the Gnosis, St. Michael symbolizes the sun, and thus very appropriately at St. M...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesever−conscious belief of the Breton people in the Legend of the Dead and in a world inv...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries                    Taking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1)During all these ce...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesvery much like, if not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men alike pl...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesevidence concerning fairies, we sometimes give evidence which, though akin to it and th...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesfairies has been jealously retained, and will, so it would seem, be retained in the fut...
The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesheard their music at the old bush behind the house. Ask what the fairies are like, and ...
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The fairy faith in celtic countries

  1. 1. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries W.Y. Evans Wentz
  2. 2. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries Table of ContentsThe Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries.................................................................................................................1 W.Y. Evans Wentz ...................................................................................................................................1 Preface......................................................................................................................................................1 Dedication................................................................................................................................................3 Introduction..............................................................................................................................................4 Environment (section I, chapter I).........................................................................................................11 Taking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1).................................................................................20 Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 2)....................................................................................64 Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 3)....................................................................................85 Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 4)....................................................................................98 Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 5)..................................................................................118 Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 6)..................................................................................133 Anthropological Examination (Section I Chapter III)........................................................................159 People of the Goddess Dana (Section II Chapter IV).........................................................................193 Brythonic Divinities (Section II Chapter V).......................................................................................208 Celtic Otherworld (Section II Chapter VI).........................................................................................222 Doctrine of Rebirth (Section II Chapter VII) ......................................................................................238 Testimony of Archaelogy (Section III Chapter VIII).........................................................................263 Testimony of Paganism (Section III Chapter IX)...............................................................................271 Testimony of Christianity (Section III Chapter X).............................................................................289 Science and Fairies (Section IV Chapter XI) ......................................................................................298 i
  3. 3. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries W.Y. Evans WentzThis page copyright © 2001 Blackmask Online.http://www.blackmask.com• Preface• Dedication• Introduction• Environment (section I, chapter I)• Taking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1)• Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 2)• Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 3)• Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 4)• Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 5)• Taking Evidence (Section I, Chapter II, part 6)• Anthropological Examination (Section I Chapter III)• People of the Goddess Dana (Section II Chapter IV)• Brythonic Divinities (Section II Chapter V)• Celtic Otherworld (Section II Chapter VI)• Doctrine of Rebirth (Section II Chapter VII)• Testimony of Archaelogy (Section III Chapter VIII)• Testimony of Paganism (Section III Chapter IX)• Testimony of Christianity (Section III Chapter X)• Science and Fairies (Section IV Chapter XI) PrefaceIt remains for ever true that the proper study of mankind Is man; and even early man is not beneathcontempt, especially when he proves to have had within him the makings of a great race, with its highestnotions of duty and right, and all else that is noblest in the human soul.The Right Hon. Sir John Rhys.There, neither turmoil nor silence ·Though fair the sight of Erins plains, hardly will they seem so after you have known the Great Plain...A wonder of a land the land of which I speak; no youth there grows to old age....We behold and are not beheld.÷The God Midir, in Tochmarc Etaine.**DURING the years 1907÷9 this study first took shape, being then based mainly on literary sources; andduring the latter year it was successfully presented to the Faculty of Letters of the University of Rennes,The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries 1
  4. 4. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesBrittany, for the Degree of Docteur−es−Lettres. Since then I have re−investigated the whole problem of theCeltic belief in Fairies, and have collected very much fresh material. Two years ago the scope of my originalresearch was limited to the four chief Celtic countries, but now it includes all of the Celtic countries.In the present study, which has profited greatly by criticisms of the first passed by scholars in Britain and inFrance, the original literary point of view is combined with the broader point of view of anthropology. Thisstudy, the final and more comprehensive form of my views about the Fairy−Faith, would never have beenpossible had I not enjoyed during many months the kindly advice and constant encouragement of Mr. R. R.Marett, Reader in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Exeter College.During May 1910 the substance of this essay in its pan−Celtic form was submitted to the Board of theFaculty of Natural Science of Oxford University for the Research Degree of Bachelor of Science, which wasduly granted. But the present work contains considerable material not contained in the essay presented to theOxford examiners, the Right Hon. Sir John Rhys and Mr. Andrew Lang; and, therefore, I alone assume entireresponsibility for all its possible shortcomings, and in particular for some of its more speculative theories,which to some minds may appear to be in conflict with orthodox views, whether of the theologian or of theman of science. These theories, however venturesome they may appear, are put forth in almost every casewith the full approval of some reliable, scholarly Celt; and as such they are chiefly intended to make theexposition of the belief in fairies as completely and as truly Celtic as possible, without much regard fornon−Celtic opinion, whether this be in harmony with Celtic opinion or not.As the new manuscript of the Fairy−Faith lies before me revised and finished, I realize even more fully thanI did two years ago with respect to the original study, how little right I have to call it mine. Those to whomthe credit for it really belongs are my many kind friends and helpers in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales,Cornwall, and Brittany, and many others who are not Celts, in the three great nations ÷ happily so intimatelyunited now by unbreakable bonds of goodwill and international brotherhood ÷ Britain, France, and the UnitedStates of America; for without the aid of all these Celtic and non−Celtic friends the work could never havebeen accomplished. They have given me their best and rarest thoughts as so many golden threads; I have onlyfurnished the mental loom, and woven these golden threads together in my own way according to what I taketo be the psychological pattern of the Fairy−Faith.I am under a special obligation to the following six distinguished Celtic scholars who have contributed, formy second chapter, the six introductions to the fairy−lore collected by me in their respective countries :÷ Dr.Douglas Hyde (Ireland); Dr. Alexander Carmichael (Scotland); Miss Sophia Morrison (Isle of Man); theRight Hon. Sir John Rhys (Wales); Mr. Henry Jenner (Cornwall); Professor Anatole Le Bras (Brittany).I am also greatly indebted to the Rev. J. Estlin Carpenter, Principal of Manchester College, for having aidedme with the parts of this book touching Christian theology; to Mr. R. I. Best, M.R.I.A., Assistant Librarian,National Library, Dublin, for having aided me with the parts devoted to Irish mythology and literature; and toMr. William McDougall, Wilde Reader in Mental Philosophy in the University of Oxford, for a similarservice with respect to Section IV, entitled Science and Fairies. And to these and to all the other scholarswhose names appear in this preface, my heartiest thanks are due for the assistance which they have so kindlyrendered in reading different parts of the Fairy−Faith when in proof.With the deep spirit of reverence which a student feels towards his preceptors, I acknowledge a still greaterdebt to those among my friends and helpers who have been my Celtic guides and teachers. Here in OxfordUniversity I have run up a long account with the Right Hon. Sir John Rhys, the Professor of Celtic, who hasintroduced me to the study of Modern Irish, and of Arthurian romance and mythology, and has guided meboth during the year 1907−8 and ever since in Celtic folk−lore generally. To Mr. Andrew Lang, I am likewisea debtor, more especially in view of the important suggestions which he has given me during the past twoyears with respect to anthropology and to psychical research. In my relation to the Faculty of Letters of theThe Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries 2
  5. 5. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesUniversity of Rennes, I shall always remember the friendly individual assistance offered to me there duringthe year 1908−9 by Professor Joseph Loth, then Dean in that University, but now of the College of France, inParis, particularly with respect to Brythonic mythology, philology, and archaeology; by Professor GeorgesDottin, particularly with respect to Gaelic matters; and by Professor Anatole Le Bras, whose continual goodwishes towards my work have been a constant source of inspiration since our first meeting during March1908, especially in my investigation of La Lgende de La Mont, and of the related traditions and livingfolk−beliefs in Brittany÷Brittany with its haunted ground of Carnac, home of the ancient Brythonic Mysteries.W.Y. E. W.Jesus College, OxfordAll Saints Day, 1911 Dedication THIS BOOK Depends chiefly upon the oral and written testimony so freely contributed by its many Celtic authors, − The peasant and the scholar, the priest and the scientist, The poet and the business man, the seer and the non−seer, − and in honour of them I DEDICATE it to TWO OF THE BRETHREN IN IRELAND A.E., whose unwavering loyalty to the fairy−faith has inspired much that I have herein written, whose friendly guidance in my study of Irish mysticism I most gratefully acknowledge; and WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS, who brought me at my own alma mater in California the first message from fairyland, and who afterwards in his own country led me through the haunts of fairy kings and queens.Dedication 3
  6. 6. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries Oxford November 1911 Introduction I have told what I have seen, what I have thought, and what I have learned by inquiry. HERODOTUS. I. THE RELIGIOUS NATURE OF THE FAIRY−FAITHTHERE is probably no other place in Celtic lands more congenial, or more inspiring for the writing down ofones deeper intuitions about the Fairy−Faith, than Carnac, under the shadow of the pagan tumulus and mountof the sacred fire, now dedicated by triumphant Christianity to the Archangel Michael. The very name ofCarnac is significant ;(1) and in two continents, Africa and Europe ÷ to follow the certain evidence ofarchaeology alone (2) ÷ there seem to have been no greater centres for ancient religion than Karnak inEgypt and Carnac in Brittany. On the banks of the Nile the Children of Isis and Osiris erected temples asperfect as human art can make them; on the shores of the Morbihan the mighty men who were, as it seems,the teachers of our own Celtic forefathers, erected temples of unhewn stone. The wonderful temples inYucatan, the temple−caves of prehistoric India, Stonehenge in England, the Parthenon, the Acropolis, St.Peters at Rome, Westminster Abbey, or Notre−Dame, and the Pyramids and temples of Egypt, equally withthe Alignements of Carnac, each in their own way record more or less perfectly mans attempt to expressmaterially what be feels spiritually. Perfected art can beautify and make more attractive to the eye and mind,but it cannot enhance in any degree the innate spiritual(1) Quite appropriately it means place of cairns or Iumuli÷those prehistoric monuments religious andfunereal in their purposes. Carnac seems to be a Gallo−Roman form. According to Professor J. Loth, theBreton (Celtic) forms would be: old Celtic, CarnJco−s; old Breton (ninth−eleventh century), Carnoc; MiddleBreton (eleventh−sixteenth century), Carneuc; Modern Breton, Ca,nec.(2) For we cannot offer any proof of what at first sight appears like a philological relation or identity betweenCarnac and Karnab.[xxvi]ideals which men in all ages have held; and thus it is that we read amid the rough stone menhirs and dolmensin Brittany, as amid the polished granite monoliths and magnificent temples in Egypt, the same silentmessage from the past to the present, from the dead to the living. This message, we think, is fundamentallyimportant in understanding the Celtic Fairy−Faith; for in our opinion the belief in fairies has the same originas all religions and mythologies.And there seems never to have been an uncivilized tribe, a race, or nation of civilized men who have not badsome form of belief in an unseen world, peopled by unseen beings. In religions, mythologies, and theFairy−Faith, too, we behold the attempts which have been made by different peoples in different ages toexplain in terms of human experience this unseen world, its inhabitants, its laws, and mans relation to it TheIntroduction 4
  7. 7. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesAncients called its inhabitants gods, genii, daemons, and shades; Christianity knows them as angels, saints,demons, and souls of the dead; to tin−civilized tribes they are gods, demons, and spirits of ancestors; and theCelts think of them as gods, and as fairies of many kinds. II. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE FAIRY−FAITHBy the Celtic Fairy−Faith we mean that specialized form of belief in a spiritual realm inhabited by spiritualbeings which has existed from prehistoric times until now in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall,Brittany, or other parts of the ancient empire of the Celts. In studying this belief, we are concerned directlywith living Celtic folk−traditions, and with past Celtic folk−traditions as recorded in literature. And if fairiesactually exist as invisible beings or intelligences, and our investigations lead us to the tentative hypothesisthat they do, they are natural and not supernatural, for nothing which exists can be supernatural; and,therefore, it is our duty to examine the Celtic Fairy Races just as we examine any fact in the visible realm[xxvii]wherein we now live, whether it be a fact of chemistry, of physics, or of biology. However, as we proceed tomake such an examination, we shall have to remember constantly that there is a new set of ideas to workwith, entirely different from what we find in natural sciences, and often no adequate vocabulary based oncommon human experiences. An American who has travelled in Asia and an Englishman who has travelled inAustralia may meet in Paris and exchange travelling experiences with mutual understanding, because both. ofthem have experienced travel; and they will have an adequate vocabulary to describe each experience,because most men have also experienced travel. But a saint who has known the spiritual condition calledecstasy cannot explain ecstasy to a man who has never known it, and if he should try to do so would discoverat once that no modern language is suitable for the purpose. His experience is rare and not universal, and menhave developed no complete vocabulary to describe experiences not common to the majority of mankind, andthis is especially true of psychical experiences. It is the same in dealing with fairies, as these arehypothetically conceived, for only a few men and women can assert that they have seen fairies, and hencethere is no adequate vocabulary to describe fairies. Among the Ancients, who dealt so largely with psychicalsciences, there seems to have been a common language which could be used to explain the invisible worldand its inhabitants; but we of this age have not yet developed such a language. Consequently, men who denyhuman immortality, as well as men with religious faith who have not through personal psychical experiencestransformed that faith into a fact, nowadays when they happen to read what Plato, lamblichus, or any of theNeo−Platonists have written, or even what moderns have written in attempting to explain psychic facts, call itall mysticism. And to the great majority of Europeans and Americans, mysticism is a most convenient noun,applicable to anything which may seem reasonable yet wholly untranslatable in terms of their own individualexperience; and mysticism usually means something quite the reverse[xxviii]of scientific simply because we have by usage unwisely limited the meai~iT1g of the word science to aknowledge of things material and visible, whereas it really means a knowing or a knowledge of everythingwhich exists. We have tried to deal with the rare psychical experiences of Irish, Scotch, Manx, Welsh, orBreton seers, and psychics generally, in the dearest language possible; but if now and then we are chargedwith being mystical, this is our defence. III. THE METHOD OF STUDYING THE FAIRY−FAITHIn this study, which is first of all a folk−lore study, we pursue principally an anthropo−psychological methodof interpreting the Celtic belief in fairies, though we do not hesitate now and then to call in the aid ofphilology; and we make good use of the evidence offered by mythologies, religions, metaphysics, andIntroduction 5
  8. 8. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesphysical sciences. Folk−lore, a century ago was considered beneath the serious consideration of scholars; butthere has come about a complete reversal of scholarly opinion, for now it is seen that the beliefs of thepeople, their legends, and their songs are the source of nearly all literatures, and that their institutions andcustoms are the origin of those of modern times. And, to−day, to the new science of folk−lore ÷ which, asMr. Andrew Lang says, must be taken to include psychical research or psychical sciences,÷archaeology,anthropology, and comparative mythology and religion are indispensable. Thus folklore offers the scientificmeans of studying man in the sense meant by the poet who declared that the proper study of mankind is man. IV. DIVISIONS OF THE STUDYThis study is divided into four sections or parts. The first one deals with the living Fairy−Faith among theCelts themselves; the second, with the recorded and ancient Fairy−Faith as we find it in Celtic literature andmythology; the third, with the Fairy−Faith in its religious aspects; and in the fourth section an attempt hasbeen made to suggest[xxix]how the theories of our newest science, psychical research; explain the belief in fairies.I have set forth in the first section in detail and as dearly as possible the testimony communicated to me byliving Celts who either believe in fairies, or else say that they have seen fairies; and throughout other sectionsI have preferred to draw as much as possible of the material from men and women rather than from books.Books too often are written out of other books, and too seldom from the life of man; and in a scientific studyof the Fairy−Faith, such as we have undertaken, the Celt himself is by far the best, in fact the only authority.For us it is much less important to know what scholars think of fairies than to know what the Celtic peoplethink of fairies. This is especially true in considering the Fairy−Faith as it exists now. V. THE COLLECTING OF MATERIALIn June, 1908, after a years preparatory work in things Celtic under the direction of the Oxford Professor ofCeltic, Sir John Rhys, I began to travel in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany, and to collect material thereat first hand from the people who have shaped and who still keep alive the Fairy−Faith; and during the year1909−10 fresh folklore expeditions were made into Brittany, Ireland, and Wales, and then, finally, the studyof the Fairy−Faith was made pan−Celtic by similar expeditions throughout the Isle of Man, and intoCornwall. Many of the most remote parts of these lands were visited; and often there was no other plan toadopt, or any method better, or more natural, than to walk day after day from one straw−thatched cottage toanother, living on the simple wholesome food of the peasants.Sometimes there was the picturesque mountain−road to climb, sometimes the route lay through marshypeat−lands, or across a rolling grass−covered country; and with each change of landscape came some newthought and some new impression of the Celtic life, or perhaps some new description of a fairy.[xxx]This immersion in the most striking natural and social environment of the Celtic race, gave me an insight intothe mind, the religion, the mysticism, and the very heart of the Celt himself, such as no mere study in librariesever could do. I tried to see the world as he does; I participated in his innermost thoughts about the greatproblem of life and death, with which he of all peoples is most deeply concerned; and thus he revealed to methe source of his highest ideals and inspirations. I daily felt the deep and innate seriousness of his ancestralnature; and, living as he lives, I tried in all ways to be like him. I was particularly qualified for such anIntroduction 6
  9. 9. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesundertaking: partly Celtic myself by blood and perhaps largely so by temperament, I found it easy tosympathize with the Celt and with his environments. Further, being by birth an American, I was in manyplaces privileged to enter where an Englishman, or a non−Celt of Europe would not be; and my educationunder the free ideals of a new−world democracy always made it possible for me to view economic, political,religious, and racial questions in Celtic lands apart from the European point of view, and without theEuropean prejudices which are so numerous and so greatly to be regretted. But without any doubt, during mysojourn, extending over three years, among the Celts, these various environments shaped my thoughts aboutfairies and Fairyland ÷ as they ought to have done if truth is ever to be reached by research.These experiences of mine lead me to believe that the natural aspects of Celtic countries, much more thanthose of most non−Celtic countries, impress man and awaken in him some unfamiliar part of himself÷call itthe Subconscious Self, the Subliminal Self, the Ego, or what you will ÷ which gives him an unusual power toknow and to feel invisible, or psychical, influences. What is there, for example, in London, or Paris, orBerlin, or New York to awaken the intuitive power of man, that subconsciousness deep−hidden in him, equalto the solitude of those magical environments of Nature which the Celts enjoy and love?In my travels, when the weather was too wild to venture[xxxi]out by day, or when the more favourable hours of the night had arrived, with fires and candles lit, or evenduring a roadside chat amid the days journey, there was gathered together little by little, from one countryand another, the mass of testimony which chapter ii contains. And with all this my opinions began to takeshape; for when I set out from Oxford in June, I had no certain or clear ideas as to what fairies are, nor whythere should. be belief in them. In less than a year afterwards I found myself committed to the PsychologicalTheory, which I am herein setting forth. VI. THEORIES OF THE FAIRY−FAITHWe make continual reference throughout our study to this Psychological Theory of the Nature and Origin ofthe Celtic Fairy−Faith, and it is one of our purposes to demonstrate that this is the root theory which indudesor absorbs the four theories already advanced to account for the belief in fairies. To guide the reader in hisown conclusions, we shall here briefly outline these four theories.The first of them may be called the Naturalistic Theory, which is, that in ancient and in modern times mansbelief in gods, spirits, or fairies has been the direct result of his attempts to explain or to rationalize naturalphenomena. Of this theory we accept as true that the belief in fairies often anthropomorphically reflects thenatural environment as well as the social condition of the people who hold the belief. For example, amid thebeautiful low−lying green hills and gentle dells of Connemara (Ireland), the good people are just asbeautiful, just as gentle, and just as happy as their environment; while amid the dark−rising mountains and inthe mysterious cloud−shadowed lakes of the Scotch Highlands there are fiercer kinds of fairies and terriblewater−kelpies, and in the Western Hebrides there is the much−dreaded spirit−host moving through the air atnight.The Naturalistic Theory shows accurately enough that natural phenomena and environment have givendirection[xxxii]Introduction 7
  10. 10. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesto the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but after explaining this external aspect of theFairy−Faith it cannot iogically go any further. Or if illogically it. does attempt to explain the belief in gods,spirits, or fairies as due entirely to material causes, it becomes, in our opinion, like the psychology of fiftyyears ago, obsolete; for now the new psychology or psychical research has been forced to admit ÷ if only as aworking hypothesis÷the possibility of invisible intelligences or entities able to influence man and nature. Weseem even to be approaching a scientific proof of the doctrines of such ancient philosophical scientists asPythagoras and Plato, ÷ that all external nature, animated throughout and controlled in its phenomena bydaemons acting by the will of gods, is to men nothing more than the visible effects of an unseen world ofcauses.In the internal aspects of the Fairy−Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have beenin the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy forenvironment to act upon and shape. Without an object to act upon, environment can accomplish nothing. Thisis evident. The Naturalistic Theory examines only the environment and its effects, and forgets altogether thegerm idea of a fairy to be acted upon; but the Psychological Theory remembers and attempts to explain thegerm idea of a fairy and the effect of nature upon it.The second theory may be called the Pygmy Theory, which Mr. David MacRitchie, who is definitelycommitted to it, has so dearly set forth in his well−known work, entitled The Testimony of Tradition. Thistheory is that the whole fairy−belief has grown up out of a folk−memory of an actual Pygmy race. This raceis supposed to have been a very early, prehistoric, probably Mongolian race, which inhabited the BritishIslands and many parts of Continental Europe.When the Celtic nations appeared, these pygmies were driven into mountain fastnesses and into the mostmaccessible places, where a few of them may have survived until comparatively historical times.[xxxiii]Over against the champions of the Pygmy Theory may be set two of its opponents, Dr. Bertram C. A. Windleand Mr. Andrew Lang. (1) Dr. Windle, in his Introduction to Tysons Philological Essay concerning thePygmies of the Ancients, makes these six most destructive criticisms or points against the theory: (i) So far asour present knowledge teaches us, there never was a really Pygmy race inhabiting the northern parts of−Scotland; (z) the mounds with which the tales of little people are associated have not, in many cases, beenhabitations, but were natural or sepulchral in their nature; (3) little people are not by any means associatedentirely with mounds; (~) the association of giants and dwarfs in traditions confuses the theory; (5) there arefairies where no pygmies ever were, as, for example, in North America; (6) even Eskimos and Lapps havefairy beliefs, and could not have been the original fairies of more modern fairy−lore. Altogether, as we thinkour study will show, the evidence of the Fairy−Faith itself gives only a slender and superficial support to thePygmy Theory. We maintain that the theory, so far as it is provable, and this is evidently not very far, is onlyone strand, contributed by ethnology and social psychology, in the complex fabric of the Fairy−Faith, and is,as such, woven round a psychical central pattern÷the fundamental pattern of the Fairy−Faith. Therefore, fromour point of view, the Pygmy Theory is altogether inadequate, because it overlooks or misinterprets the mostessential and prominent elements in the belief which the Celtic peoples hold concerning fairies and Fairyland.The Druid Theory to account for fairies is less widespread. It is that the folk−memory of the Druids and theirmagical practices is alone responsible for the Fairy−Faith. The first suggestion of this theory seems to havebeen made by the Rev. Dr. Cririe, in his ScoUish Scenery, published in 1803. (2) Three years later, the Rev.Dr. Graham published(1) Andrew Lang, Kirks Secret Commonwealth (London, 1893), p. xviii; and History of Scotland(Edinburgh, 1900−07).Introduction 8
  11. 11. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries(2) Cf. David MacRitchies published criticisms of our Psychological Theory in The Celtic Review (January1910), entitled Druids and Mound−Dwellers; also his first part of these criticisms, ib. (October 1909),entitled A New Solution of the Fairy Problem.[xxxiv]an identical hypothesis in his Sketches Descriptive of Picturesque Scenery on the Southern Confines ofPerthshire. Mr. MacRitchie suggests, with all reason, that the two writers probably had discussed together thetheory, and hence both put it forth. Alfred Maury, in Les Fees du Moyen−Age, published in 1843 at Paris,appears to have made liberal use of Patrick Grahams suggestions in propounding his theory that the fles orfairy women of the Middle Ages are due to a folk−memory of Druidesses. Maury seems to have forgottenthat throughout pagan Britain and Ireland, both much more important for the study of fairies than CelticEurope during the Middle Ages, Druids rather than Druidesses had the chief influence on the people, and thatyet, despite this fact, Irish and Welsh mythology is full of stories about fairy women coming from theOtberworld; nor is there any proof, or even good ground for argument, that the Irish fairy women are afolk−memory of Druidesses, for if there ever were Druidesses in Ireland they played a subordinate and veryinsignificant rOle. As in the case of the Pygmy Theory, we maintain that the Druid Theory, also, isinadequate. It discovers a real anthropomorphic influence at work on the outward aspects of the Fairy−Faith,and illogically takes that to be the origin of the Fairy−Faith.The fourth theory, the Mythological Theory, is of very great importance. It is that fairies are the diminishedfigures of the old pagan divinities of the early Celts; and many modern authorities on Celtic mythology andfolk−lore hold it. To us the theory is acceptable so far as it goes. But it is not adequate in itself nor is it theroot theory, because a belief in gods and goddesses must in turn be explained; and in making this explanationwe arrive at the Psychological Theory, which this study ÷ perhaps the first one of its kind ÷ attempts to setforth.[xxxv] VII. THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING THE FAIRY−FAITHI have made a very careful personal investigation of the surviving Celtic Fairy−Faith by living for manymonths with and among the people who preserve it; I have compared fairy phenomena and the phenomenasaid to be caused by gods, genii, daemons, or spirits of different kinds and recorded in the writings of ancient,mediaeval, and modern metaphysical philosophers, Christian and pagan saints, mystics, and seers, and nowmore or less clearly substantiated by from thirty to forty years of experimentation in psychical sciences byeminent scientists of our own times, such as Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge in England, and M.Camille Flammarion in France. As a result, I am convinced of the very great value of a serious study of theFairy−Faith. The Fairy−Faith as the folk−religion of the Celts ought, like all religions, to be studiedsympathetically as well as scientifically. To those who take a materialistic view of life, and consequentlydeny the existence of spirits or invisible intelligences such as fairies are said to be, we should say as myhonoured American teacher in psychology, the late Dr. William James, of Harvard, used to say in his lecturesat Stanford University, Materialism considered as a system of philosophy never tries to explain the Why ofthings. But in our study of the Fairy−Faith we shall attempt to deal with this Why of things; and, then,perhaps the value of studying fairies and Fairyland will be more apparent, even to materialists.The great majority of men in cities are apt to pride themselves on their own exemption from superstition,and to smile pityingly at the poor countrymen and countrywomen who believe in fairies. But when they do sothey forget that, with all their own admirable progress in material invention, with all the far−reaching data oftheir acquired science, with all the vast extent of their commercialandeconomicconquests, they themselvesIntroduction 9
  12. 12. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countrieshave ceased to be natural. Wherever under modern conditions great multitudes of men and women are herdedtogether there is bound to be an unhealthy psychical[xxxvi]atmosphere never found in the country ÷ an atmosphere which inevitably tends to develop in the average manwho is not psychically strong enough to resist it, lower at the expense of higher forces or qualities, and thus toinhibit any normal attempts of the Subliminal Self (a well−accredited psychological entity) to manifest itselfin consciousness. In this connexion it is highly significant to note that, as far as can be determined, almost allprofessed materialists of the uncritical type, and even most of those who are thinking and philosophizingsceptics about the existence of a supersensuous realm or state of conscious being, are or have beencity−dwellers÷usually so by birth and breeding. And even where we find materialists of either type dwellingin the country, we generally find them so completely under the hypnotic sway of city influences and mould ofthought in matters of education and culture, and in matters touching religion, that they have lost allsympathetic and responsive contact with Nature, because unconsciously they have thus permittedconventionality and unnaturalness to insulate them from it.The Celtic peasant, who may be their tenant or neighbour, is÷if still uncorrupted by them÷in direct contrastunconventional and natural. He is normally always responsive to psychical influences÷as much so as anAustralian Arunta or an American Red Man, who also, like him, are fortunate enough to have escaped beingcorrupted by what we egotistically, to distinguish ourselves from them, call civilization. If our Celtic peasanthas psychical experiences, or if he sees an apparition which he calls one of the good people, that is to say afairy, it is useless to try to persuade him that he is under a delusion: unlike his materialistically−minded lord,he would not attempt nor even desire to make himself believe that what he has seen he has not seen. Not onlyhas he the will to believe, but he has the right to believe; because his belief is not a matter of being educatedand reasoning logically, nor a matter of faith and theology÷it is a fact of his own individual experiences, ashe will tell you. Such peasant seers have frequently argued with me to the effect that One does not have to beeducated in order to see fairies.[xxxvii]Unlike the natural mind of the uncorrupted Celt, Arunta, or American Red Man, which is ever open tounusual psychical impressions, the mind of the business man in our great cities tends to be obsessed withbusiness affairs both during his waking and during his dream states, the politicians with politics similarly, thesociety−leaders with society; and the unwholesome excitement felt by day in the city is apt to be heightenedat night through a satisfying of the feeling which it morbidly creates for relaxation and change of stimuli. Inthe slums, humanity is divorced from Nature under even worse conditions, and becomes wholly decadent.But in slum and in palace alike there is continually a feverish nerve−tension induced by unrest and worry;there is impure and smoke−impregnated air, a lack of sunshine, a substitution of artificial objects f or naturalobjects, and in place of solitude the eternal din of traffic. Instead of Nature, men in cities (and paradoxicallysome conventionalized men in the country) have civilization ÷ and culture.Are city−dwellers like these, Natures unnatural children, who grind out their lives in an unceasing strugglefor wealth and power, social position, and even for bread, fit to judge Natures natural children who believe infairies? Are they right in not believing in an invisible world which they cannot conceive, which, if it exists,they÷even though they be scientists÷are through environment and temperament alike incapable of knowing?Or is the country−dwelling, the sometimes unpractical and unsuccessful, the dreaming, and uncivilizedpeasant right? These questions ought to arouse in the minds of anthropologists very serious reflection,world−wide in its scope.Introduction 10
  13. 13. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesAt all events, and equally for the unbeliever and for the believer, the study of the Fairy−Faith is of vastimportance historically, philosophically, religiously, and scientifically. In it lie the germs of much of ourEuropean religions and philosophies, customs, and institutions. And it is one of the chief keys to unlock themysteries of Celtic mythology. We believe that a greater age is coming soon, when all the ancientmythologies will be carefully studied and interpreted,[xxxviii]and when the mythology of the Celts will be held in very high esteem. But already an age has come whenthings purely Celtic have begun to be studied; and the close observer can see the awakening genius of themodern Celt manifesting itself in the realm of scholarship, of literature, and even of art÷throughoutContinental Europe, especially France and Germany, throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and throughoutthe new Celtic world of America, as far west as San Francisco on the great calm ocean of the future facingJapan and China. In truth the Celtic empire is greater than it ever was before Caesar destroyed its politicalunity; and its citizens have not forgotten the ancient faith of their ancestors in a world invisible.W.Y.E.W. Environment (section I, chapter I)In the Beauty of the World lies the ultimate redemption of our mortality. When we shall become at one withnature in a sense profounder even than the poetic imaginings of most of us, we shall understand what now wefail to discern. ÷FIONA MACLEOD.Psychical interpretation ÷ The mysticism of Erin and Armorica ÷ In Ireland ÷ In Scotland ÷ In the Isle ofMan ÷ In Wales ÷ In Cornwall ÷ In Brittany.As a preliminary to our study it is important, as we shall see later, to give some attention to the influences andpurely natural environment under which the Fairy−Faith has grown up. And in doing so it will be apparent towhat extent there is truth in the Naturalistic Theory; though from the first our interpretation of Environmentis fundamentally psychical. In this first chapter, then, in so far as they can be recorded, we shall record a fewimpressions, which will, in a way, serve as introductory to the more definite and detailed consideration of theFairy−Faith itself.Ireland and Brittany, the two extremes of the modern Celtic world, are for us the most important points fromwhich to take our initial bearings. Both washed by the waters of the Ocean of Atlantis, the one an island, theother a peninsula, they have best preserved their old racial life in its simplicity and beauty, with its highideals, its mystical traditions, and its strong spirituality. And, curious though the statement may appear tosome, this preservation of older manners and traditions does not seem to be due so much to geographicalisolation as to subtle forces so strange and mysterious that to know them they must be felt; and their naturecan only be suggested, for it cannot be described.[2]Over Erin and Armorica, as over Egypt, there hovers a halo of romance, of strangeness, of mysticism real andpositive; and, if we mistake not the language of others, these phrases of ours but echo opinions common toEnvironment (section I, chapter I) 11
  14. 14. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesmany Celts native of the two countries ÷ they who have the first right to testify; and not only are there poetsand seers among them, but men of the practical world as well, and men of high rank in scholarship, inliterature, in art, and even in science. IN IRELANDIf anyone would know Ireland and test these influences ÷ influences which have been so fundamental ingiving to the Fairy−Faith of the past something more than mere beauty of romance and attractive form, andsomething which even to−day, as in the heroic ages, is ever−living and ever−present in the centres wheremen of the second−sight say that they see fairies in that strange state of subjectivity which the peasant callsFairyland ÷ let him stand on the Hill of Tara silently and alone at sunset, in the noonday, in the mist of a darkday. Let him likewise silently and alone follow the course of the Boyne. Let him enter the silence of NewGrange and of Dowth. Let him muse over the hieroglyphics of Lough Crew. Let him feel the mystic beauty ofKillarney, the peacefulness of Glendalough, of Monasterboise, of Clonmacnois, and the isolation ofAranmore. Let him dare to enter the rings of fairies, to tempt the good folk at their raths and forts. Let himrest on the ancient cairn above the mountain−palace of Finvara and look out across the battlefields ofMoytura. Let him wander amid the fairy dells of gentle Connemara. Let him behold the Irish Sea from theHeights of Howth, as Fionn Mac Cumhail used to do. Let him listen to the ocean−winds amid Dun Aengus.Let him view the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the Red Branch Knights. Let him linger beside thatmysterious lake which lies embosomed between two prehistoric cairns on the summit of enchanted SlieveGullion, where yet dwells invisible the mountains Guardian, a fairy woman. Let him then try to interpret themysticism of an ancient Irish[3]myth, in order to understand why men have been told that in the plain beneath this magic mountain of Irelandmighty warfare was once waged on account of a Bull, by the hosts of Queen Meave against those ofCuchulainn the hero of Ulster. Let him be lost in the mists on the top of Ben Bulbin. Let him know the hauntsof fairy kings and queens in Roscommon. Let him follow in the footsteps of Patrick and Bridgit andColumba. When there are dark days and stormy nights, let him sit beside a blazing fire of fragrant peat in apeasants straw−thatched cottage listening to tales of Irelands golden age÷tales of gods, of heroes, of ghosts,and of fairy−folk. If he will do these things, he will know Ireland, and why its people believe in fairies.As yet, little has been said concerning the effects of clouds, of natural scenery, of weird and suddentransformations in earth and sky and air, which play their part in shaping the complete Fairy−Faith of theIrish; but what we are about to say concerning Scotland will suggest the same things for Ireland, because thenature of the landscape and the atmospheric changes are much the same in the two countries, both inland andon their rock−bound and storm−swept shores. IN SCOTLANDIn the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, a region made famous by Scotts Rob Roy, I have seenatmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours andclouds, what flashes of bright sun−gleams, then twilight at midday! Across the landscape, shadows of blackdense fog−banks rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all the earth. Palpitating fog−bankswrap themselves around the mountain−tops and then come down like living things to move across thevalleys, sometimes only a few yards above the travellers head. And in that country live terrible waterkelpies.Environment (section I, chapter I) 12
  15. 15. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic CountriesWhen black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind−driven vertical water−sheets through whichthe world appears as through an ice−filmed window−pane. Perhaps in a single day there may be the bluest ofheavens and[4]the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, the calm of the morning and the wind of thetempest. At night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear sunset and a fair evening sky; in themorning when I arose, the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand cascades, large and small,were leaping down the mountain−highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within an hour afterwards,as I travelled on towards Stirling, the rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all the landcloud−masses so inky−black that they seemed like the fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massedarmies they began to move to their mountain−strongholds, and stood there; while from the east came perfectweather and a flood of brilliant sunshine.And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what magic, what changing colours and shadows there wereon the age−worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their clear, pure streams receiving tribute fromunnumbered little rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as though it were fairy−distilled; andeverywhere the heather giving to the mountain−landscape a hue of rich purplish−brown, and to the air anodour of aromatic fragrance.On to the north−west beyond Inverness there is the same kind of a treeless highland country; and then after afew hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by somebelieved to have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from fairy women, ÷ Skye, dark,mountainous, majestic, with its waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff to cliff into thesound, from out the clouds that hide their mountain−summit sources.In the Outer Hebrides, as in the Aranmore Islands off West Ireland, influences are at work on the Celticimagination quite different from those in Skye and its neighbouring islands. Mountainous billows which havetravelled from afar out of the mysterious watery waste find their first impediment on the west of theseisolated Hebridean isles, and they fling themselves like mad things in full fury[5]against the wild rocky islets fringing the coast. White spray flashes in unearthly forms over the highest cliff,and the unrestrained hurricane whirls it far inland. Oceans eternally murmuring sounds set up a responsivevibration in the soul of the peasant, as be in solitude drives home his flocks amid the weird gloaming at theend of a December day; and, later, when he sits brooding in his humble cottage at night, in the fitfulflickering of a peat fire, he has a mystic consciousness that deep down in his being there is a more divinemusic compared with which that of external nature is but a symbol and an echo; and, as he stirs the glowingpeat−embers, phantoms from an irretrievable past seem to be sitting with him on the edge of the half−circleof dying light. Maybe there are skin−clad huntsmen of the sea and land, with spears and knives of bone andflint and shaggy sleeping dogs, or fearless sea−rovers resting wearily on shields of brilliant bronze, or maybeCeltic warriors fierce and bold; and then he understands that his past and his present are one.Commonly there is the thickest day−darkness when the driving storms come in from the Atlantic, or whendense fog covers sea and land; and, again, there are melancholy sea−winds moaning across from shore toshore, bending the bushes of the purple heather. At other times there is a sparkle of the brightest sunshine onthe ocean waves, a fierceness foreign to the more peaceful Highlands; and then again a dead silence prevailsat sunrise and at sunset if one be on the mountains, or, if on the shore, no sound is heard save the rhythmicalbeat of the waves, and now and then the hoarse cry of a sea−bird. All these contrasted conditions may be seenEnvironment (section I, chapter I) 13
  16. 16. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesin one day, or each may endure for a day; and the dark days last nearly all the winter. And then it is, duringthe long winter, that the crofters and fisher−folk congregate night after night in a different neighbours houseto tell about fairies and ghosts, and to repeat all those old legends so dear to the heart of the Celt. Perhapsevery one present has heard the same story or legend a hundred times, yet it is always listened to and told asthough it were the[6]latest bulletin of some great world−stirring event. Over those little islands, so far away to the north, out on theedge of the world, in winter−time darkness settles down at four oclock or even earlier; and the islandershurry through with their dinner of fish and oat−bread so as not to miss hearing the first story. When thecompany has gathered from far and near, pipes are re−filled and lit and the peat is heaped up, for thestory−telling is not likely to end before midnight. The house is roomy and clean, if homely, with its brightpeat fire in the middle of the floor. There are many present ÷ men and women, boys and girls. All the womenare seated, and most of the men. Girls are crouched between the knees of fathers or brothers or friends, whileboys are perched wherever ÷ boy−like ÷ they can climb. The house−man is twisting twigs of heather intoropes to hold down thatch, a neighbour crofter is twining quicken root into cords to tie cows, while another isplaiting bent grass into baskets to hold meal. The housewife is spinning, a daughter is carding, anotherdaughter is teazing, while a third daughter, supposed to be working, is away in the background conversing inlow whispers with the son of a neighbouring crofter. Neighbour wives and neighbour daughters are knitting,sewing, or embroidering. (1) Then when the bad weather for fishing has been fully discussed by the men, andthe latest gossip by the women, and the foolish talk of the youths and maidens in the corners is finished, theone who occupies the chair of honour in the midst of the ceilidh (2) looks around to be sure that everybody iscomfortable and ready; and, as his first story begins, even the babes by instinct cease their noise and crying,and young and old bend forward eagerly to hear every word. It does(1) Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica (Edinburgh, 1900), i, p. xix.(2) The ceilidh of the Western Hebrides corresponds to the veille of Lower Brittany (see pp. 221 ff.), and tosimilar story−telling festivals which formerly flourished among all the Celtic peoples. The ceilidh is aliterary entertainment where stories and tales, poems, and ballads, are rehearsed and recited, and songs aresung, conundrums are put, proverbs are quoted, and many other literary matters are related and discussed.÷Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, 1, p. xviii.[7]not matter if some of the boys and girls do topple over asleep, or even some of the older folk as the hour getslate; the tales meet no interruption in their even, unbroken flow. And here we have the most Celtic and themost natural environments which the Fairy−Faith enjoys in Scotland.There are still the Southern Highlands in the country around Oban, and the islands near them; and of all theseisles none is so picturesque in history as the one Columba loved so well. Though Tona enjoys less of thewildness of the Hebrides furthest west, it has their storm−winds and fogs and dark days, and their strangenessof isolation. On it, as Adamnan tells us, the holy man fought with black demons who came to invade hismonastery, and saw angelic hosts; and when the angels took his soul at midnight in that little chapel by thesea−shore there was a mystic light which illuminated all the altar like the brightest sunshine. But nowadays,where the saint saw demons and angels the Islanders see ghosts and good people, and when one of theseislanders is taken in death it is not by angels ÷ it is by fairies.Environment (section I, chapter I) 14
  17. 17. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries IN THE ISLE OF MANIn the midst of the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and concentrating in itselfthe psychical and magnetic influences from these three Celtic lands, and from Celto−Saxon England too, liesthe beautiful kingdom of the great Tuatha De Danann god, Manannan Mac Lir, or, as his loyal Manx subjectsprefer to call him, Mannanan−Beg−Mac−y−Leir. In no other land of the Celt does Nature show so manymoods and contrasts, such perfect repose at one time and at another time the mightiness of its unloosedpowers, when the baffled sea throws itself angrily against a high rock−bound coast, as wild and almost asweatherworn as the western coasts of Ireland and the Hebrides.But it is Natures calmer moods which have greater effect upon the Manx people: on the summit of hisancient stronghold, South Barrule Mountain, the god Manannan yet dwells invisible to mortal eyes, andwhenever on a warm day be throws off his magic mist−blanket with which he is wont to[8]cover the whole island, the golden gorse or purple heather blossoms become musical with the hum of bees,and sway gently on breezes made balmy by the tropical warmth of an ocean stream flowing from the fardistant Mexican shores of a New World. Then in many a moist and sweet−smelling glen, pure and verdant,land−birds in rejoicing bands add to the harmony of sound, as they gather on the newly−ploughed field or dipthemselves in the clear water of the tinkling brook; and from the cliffs and rocky islets on the coast comes theecho of the multitudinous chorus of sea−birds. At sunset, on such a day, as evening calmness settles down,weird mountain shadows begin to move across the dimly−lighted glens; and when darkness has fallen, thereis a mystic stillness, broken only by the ceaseless throbbing of the sea−waves, the flow of brooks, and thevoices of the night.In the moorland solitudes, even by day, there sometimes broods a deeper silence, which is yet more potentand full of meaning for the peasant, as under its spell he beholds the peaceful vision, happy and sunlit, of seaand land, of gentle mountains falling away in land−waves into well−tilled plains and fertile valleys; and hecomes to feel instinctively the old Druidic Fires relit within his heart, and perhaps unconsciously he worshipsthere in Natures Temple. The natural beauty without awakens the divine beauty within, and for a second oftime he, out of his subconsciousness, is conscious that in Nature there are beings and inaudible voices whichhave no existence for the flippant pleasure−seeking crowds who come and go. To the multitude, his ancestralbeliefs are foolishness, his fairies but the creatures of a fervid Celtic imagination which readily responds tounusual phenomena and environments. They will not believe with him that all beauty and harmony in theworld are but symbolic, and that behind these stand unseen sustaining forces and powers which are consciousand eternal; and though by instinct they willingly personify Nature they do not know the secret of why theydo so: for them the outer is reality, the inner non−existent.From the Age of Stone to the civilized era of to−day, the Isle of Man has been, in succession, the home ofevery known[9]race and people who have flourished in Western Europe; and though subject, in turn, to the Irish Gael and tothe Welsh Brython, to Northmen and to Danes, to Scots and to English, and the scene of sweepingtransformations in religion, as pagan cults succeeded one another, to give way to the teaching of St. Patrickand his disciples St. German and St. Maughold, and this finally to the Protestant form of Christianity, theisland alone of Celtic lands has been strangely empowered to maintain in almost primitive purity its ancientEnvironment (section I, chapter I) 15
  18. 18. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesconstitution and freedom, and though geographically at the very centre of the United Kingdom, is not a partof it. The archaeologist may still read in mysterious symbols of stone and earth, as they lie strewn over theislands surface, the history of this age−long panoramic procession of human evolution; while through thesesame symbols the Manx seer reads a deeper meaning; and sometimes in the superhuman realm of radiantlight, to which since long ago they have oft come and oft returned, he meets face to face the gods and heroeswhose early tombs stand solitary on the wind−swept mountain−top and moorland, or hidden away in theembrace of wild flowers and verdure amid valleys; and in the darker mid−world he sees innumerable ghostsof many of these races which have perished. IN WALESLess can be said of Wales than of Ireland, or of Scotland as a whole. It has, it is true, its own peculiar psychicatmosphere, different, no doubt, because its people are Brythonic Celts rather than Gaelic Celts. But Wales,with conditions more modernized than is the case in Ireland or in the Western Hebrides of Scotland, does notnow exhibit in a vigorous or flourishing state those Celtic influences which, when they were active, did somuch to create the precious Romances of Arthur and his Brotherhood, and to lay the foundations for theWelsh belief in the Tylwyth Teg, a fairy race still surviving in a few favoured localities.Wales, like all Celtic countries, is a land of long sea−coasts, though there seems to be, save in the mountainsof the north,[10]less of mist and darkness and cloud effects than in Ireland and Scotland. In the south, perhaps the mostcurious influences are to be felt at St. Davids Head, and in St. Davids itself ÷ once the goal for thousands ofpilgrims from many countries of mediaeval Europe, and, probably, in pagan times the seat of an oracle. And aplace of like character is the peninsula of Gower, south of Swansea. Caerphilly Castle, where the Green Ladyreigns now amid its ruined acres, is a strange place; and so is the bill near Carmarthen, where Merlin is asleepin a cave with the fairy−woman Vivian. But in none of these places to−day is there a strong living faith infairies as there is, for example, in West Ireland. The one region where I found a real Celtic atmosphere ÷ andit is a region where everybody speaks Welsh ÷ is a mountainous country rarely visited by travellers, savearchaeologists, a few miles from Newport; and its centre is the Pentre Evan Cromlech, the finest cromlech inWales if not in Britain. By this prehistoric monument and in the country round the old Nevern Church, threemiles away, there is an active belief in the fair−folk, in ghosts, in death−warnings, in death−candles andphantom−funerals, and in witchcraft and black magic. Thence on to NewcastleEmlyn and its valley, wheremany of the Mabinogion stories took form, or at least from where they drew rich material in the way offolk−lore, (1) are environments purely Welsh and as yet little disturbed by the commercial materialism of theage.There remain now to be mentioned three other places in Wales to me very impressive psychically. These are:ancient Harlech, so famous in recorded Welsh fairy−romance ÷ Harlech with its strange stone−circles, andold castle from which the Snowdon Range is seen to loom majestically and clear, and with its sun−kissedbay; Mount Snowdon, with its memories of Arthur and Welsh heroes; and sacred Anglesey or Mona, strewnwith tumuli, and dolmens, and pillar−stones ÷ Mona, where the Druids made their last stand(1) I am indebted for this information to the late Mr. Davies, the competent scholar and antiquarian ofNewcastle−Emlyn, where for many years he has been vicar.Environment (section I, chapter I) 16
  19. 19. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries[11]against the Roman eagles ÷ and its little island called Holy−head, facing Ireland.However, when all is said, modern Wales is poorer in its fairy atmosphere than modern Ireland or modernBrittany. Certainly there is a good deal of this fairy atmosphere yet, though it has become less vital than thesimilar fairy atmosphere in the great centres of Erin and Armorica. But the purely social environment underwhich the Fairy−Faith of Wales survives is a potent force which promises to preserve underneath the surfaceof Welsh national life, where the commercialism of the age has compelled it to retire in a state of temporarylatency, the ancestral idealism of the ancient Brythonic race. In Wales, as in Lower Brittany and in parts ofIreland and the Hebrides, one may still hear in common daily use a language which has been continuouslyspoken since unknown centuries before the rise of the Roman empire. And the strong hold which the DruidicEisteddfod (an annual national congress of bards and literati) continues to have upon the Welsh people, inspite of their commercialism, is, again, a sign that their hearts remain uncorrupted, that when the morefavourable hour strikes they will sweep aside the deadening influences which now hold them in spiritualbondage, and become, as they were in the past, true children of Arthur. IN CORNWALLStrikingly like Brittany in physical aspects, Southern and Western Cornwall is a land of the sea, of rollingplains and moorlands rather than of high hills and mountains, a land of golden−yellow furze−bloom, wherenoisy crowds of black crows and white sea−gulls mingle together over the freshly−turned or new−sownfields, and where in the spring−time the call of the cuckoo is heard with the song of the skylark. Like the Isleof Man, from the earliest ages Cornwall has been a meeting−place and a battle−ground for contending races.The primitive dark Iberian peoples gave way before Aryan−Celtic invaders, and these to Roman and then toGermanic invaders.[12]Nature has been kind to the whole of Cornwall, but chiefly upon the peninsula whose ancient capital isPenzance (which possibly means the Holy Headland), and upon the land immediately eastward andnorthward of it, she has bestowed her rarest gifts. Holding this territory embosomed in the pure waters ofOcean, and breathing over it the pure air of the Atlantic in spring and in summer calm, when the warmvapours from the Gulf Stream sweep over it freely, and make it a land of flowers and of singing−birds,Nature preserves eternally its beauty and its sanctity. There are there ruined British villages whose buildersare long forgotten, strange prehistoric circular sun−temples like fortresses crowning the hill−tops, mysteriousunderground passage−ways, and crosses probably pre−Christian. Everywhere are the records of the mightypast of this thrice−holy Druid land of sunset. There are weird legends of the lost kingdom of Fair Lyonesse,which seers sometimes see beneath the clear salt waves, with all its ancient towns and flowery fields; legendsof Phoenicians and Oriental merchants who came for tin; legends of gods and of giants, of pixies and offairies, of King Arthur in his castle at Tintagel, of angels and of saints, of witches and of wizards.On Dinsul, Hill dedicated to the Sun, pagan priests and priestesses kept kindled the Eternal Fire, and dailywatched eastward for the rising of the God of Light and Life, to greet his coming with paeans of thanksgivingand praise. Then after the sixth century the new religion had come proclaiming a more mystic Light of theWorld in the Son of God, and to the pious half−pagan monks who succeeded the Druids the Archangel St.Michael appeared in vision on the Sacred Mount. (1) And before St. Augustine came to Britain the Celts ofCornwall had already combined in their own mystical way the spiritual message of primitive Christianitywith the pure nature−worship of their ancestors; and theirEnvironment (section I, chapter I) 17
  20. 20. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries(1) In the Gnosis, St. Michael symbolizes the sun, and thus very appropriately at St. Michaels Mount,Cornwall, at Mont St. Michel, Carnac, and also at Mont St. Michel on the coast of Normandy, replaced theGreat God of Light and Life, held in supreme honour among the ancient Celts.[13]land was then, as it most likely had been in pagan days, a centre of pilgrimages for their Celtic kinsmen fromIreland, from Wales, from England, and from Brittany. When in later times new theological doctrines weresuperimposed on this mysticism of Celtic Christianity, the Sacred Fires were buried in ashes, and the Lightand Beauty of the pagan world obscured with sackcloth.But there in that most southern and western corner of the Isle of Britain, the Sacred Fires themselves stillburn on the divine hill−tops, though smothered in the hearts of its children. The Cornishmans vision is nolonger clear. He looks upon cromlech and dolmen, upon ancient caves of initiation, and upon the graves ofhis prehistoric ancestors, and vaguely feels, but does not know, why his land is so holy, is so permeated by anindefinable magic; for he has lost his ancestral mystic touch with the unseen ÷ he is educated and civilized.The hand of the conqueror has fallen more heavily upon the people of Cornwall than upon any other Celticpeople, and now for a time, but let us hope happily only for this dark period of transition, they sleep ÷ untilArthur comes to break the spell and set them free. IN BRITTANYAs was pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, Ireland and Brittany are to be regarded as the two polesof the modern Celtic world, but it is believed by Celtic mystics that they are much more than this, that theyare two of its psychic centres, with Tara and Carnac as two respective points of focus from which the Celticinfluence of each country radiates. (1) With such a psychical point of view, it makes no difference at allwhether one scholar argues Carnac to be Celtic and another pre−Celtic, for if pre−Celtic, as it most likely is,it has certainly been bequeathed to the people who were and are Celtic, and its influence has been anunbroken thing from times altogether beyond the horizon of(1) In this connexion we may think of the North and South Magnetic Poles of the earth as centres of definiteyet invisible forces which can be detected, and to some extent measured scientifically.[14]history. According to this theory (and in following it we are merely trying to put on record unique materialtransmitted to us by the most learned of contemporary Celtic mystics and seers) there seem to be certainfavoured places on the earth where its magnetic and even more subtle forces are most powerful and mosteasily felt by persons susceptible to such things; and Carnac appears to be one of the greatest of such placesin Europe, and for this reason, as has been thought, was probably selected by its ancient priest−builders as thegreat centre for religious practices, for the celebration of pagan mysteries, for tribal assemblies, forastronomical observations, and very likely for establishing schools in which to educate neophytes for thepriesthood. Tara, with its tributary Boyne valley, is a similar place in Ireland, so selected and so used, as, inour study of the cult of fairies and the cult of the dead, manuscript evidence will later indicate. And thus tosuch psychical and magnetic, or, according perhaps to others, religious or traditional influences as focusthemselves at Tara and Carnac, though in other parts of the two countries as well, may be due in a great, evenin an essential measure, the vigorous and ever−living Fairy−Faith of Ireland, and the innate andEnvironment (section I, chapter I) 18
  21. 21. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesever−conscious belief of the Breton people in the Legend of the Dead and in a world invisible. For fairies andsouls of the dead, though, strictly speaking, not confused, are believed to be beings of the subjective worldexisting to−day, and influencing mortals, as they have always existed and influenced them according toancient and modern traditions, and as they appear now in the eyes even of science through the work of a fewpioneer scientists in psychical research. And it seems probable that subjective beings of this kind, grantingtheir existence, were made use of by the ancient Druids, and even by Patrick when the old and new religionsmet to do battle on the Hill of Tara. The control of Tara, as a psychical centre, meant the psychical control ofall Ireland. To−day on the Hill of Tara the statue of St. Patrick dwarfs the Liath Stone beside it; at Carnac theChristian Cross overshadows dolmens and menhirs.[15]A learned priest of the Roman Church told me, when I met him in Galway, that in his opinion those places inIreland where ancient sacrifices were performed to pagan or Druid gods are still, unless they have beenregularly exorcized, under the control of demons (daemons). And what the Druids were at Tara andthroughout Erin and most probably at Carnac as well, the priests were in Egypt, and the pythonesses inGreece. That is to say, Druids, Egyptian priests, priestesses in charge of Greek oracles, are said to haveforetold the future, interpreted omens, worked all miracles and wonders of magic by the aid of daemons, whowere regarded as an order of invisible beings, intermediary between gods and men, and as sometimesincluding the shades from Hades.I should say as before, if he who knowing Ireland, the Land of Faerie, would know in the same mannerBrittany, the Land of the Dead, let him silently and alone walk many times÷in sun, in wind, in storm, in thickmist÷through the long, broad avenues of stone of the Alignements at Carnac. Let him watch from amongthem the course of the sun from east to west. Let him stand on St. Michaels Mount on the day of the wintersolstice, or on the day of the summer solstice. Let him enter the silence of its ancient underground chamber,so dark and so mysterious. Let him sit for hours musing amid cromlechs and dolmens, and beside menhirs,and at holy wells. Let him marvel at the mightiest of menhirs now broken and prostrate at Locmariaquer, andthen let him ponder over the subterranean places near it. Let him try to read the symbolic inscriptions on therocks in Gavrinis. Let him stand on the Ile de Sein at sunrise and at sunset. Let him penetrate the solitudes ofthe Forest of Brocliande, and walk through the Val−Sans−Retour (Vale−Without−Return). And then let himwander in footpaths with the Breton peasant through fields where good dames sit on the sunny side of a bushor wall, knitting stockings, where there are long hedges of furze, golden−yellow with bloom ÷ even inJanuary ÷ and listen to stories about corrigans, and about the dead who mingle here with the[16]living. Let him enter the peasants cottage when there is fog over the land and the sea−winds are blowingacross the shifting sand−dunes, and hear what he can tell him. Let him, even as he enjoys the picturesquecustoms and dress of the Breton folk and looks on at their joyous ronde (perhaps the relic of a long−forgottensun−dance), observe the depth of their nature, their almost ever−present sense of the seriousness of humanlife and effort, their beautiful characters as their mystic land has shaped them without the artificiality ofbooks and schools, their dreaminess as they look out across the ocean, their often perfect physique and fineprofiles and rosy cheeks, and yet withal their brooding innate melancholy. And let him know that there iswith them always an overshadowing consciousness of an invisible world, not in some distant realm of space,but here and now, blending itself with this world; its inhabitants, their dead ancestors and friends, minglingwith them daily, and awaiting the hour when the Ankou (a King of the Dead) shall call each to join theirinvisible company.Environment (section I, chapter I) 19
  22. 22. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countries Taking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1)During all these centuries the Celt has kept in his heart some affinity with the mighty beings ruling in theUnseen, once so evident to the heroic races who preceded him. His legends and faery tales have connectedhis soul with the inner lives of air and water and earth, and they in turn have kept his heart sweet with hiddeninfluence. ÷ A. E.Method of presentation÷The logical verdict÷Trustworthiness of legendsThe Fairy−Faith held by the highly educated Celt as well as by the Celtic peasant ÷− The evidence iscomplete and adequate ÷ Its analysis ÷ The Fairy−Tribes dealt with ÷ Witnesses and their testimony: fromIreland, with introductton by Dr. Douglas Hyde; from Scotland, with introduction by Dr. AlexanderCarmichael; from the isle of Man, with introduction by Miss Sophia Morrison; from Wales, with introductionby the Right Hon. Sir John Rh9s; from Cornwall, with introduction by Mr. Henry Jenner; and from Brittany,with introduction by Professor Anatole Le Braz. 1. GENERAL INTRODUCTIONVARIOUS possible plans have presented themselves for setting forth the living Fairy−Faith as I have found itduring my travels in the six Celtic countries among the people who hold it. To take a bit here and a bit therefrom a miscellaneous group of psychological experiences, fairy legends and stories which are linked togetheralmost inseparably in the mind of the one who tells them, does not seem at all satisfactory, nor even just, intrying to arrive at a correct result.. Classification under various headings, such, for example, as FairyAbductions, Changelings, or Appearances of Fairies, seems equally unsatisfactory; for as soon as the detailsof folk−lore such as I am presenting are isolated from one another÷even though brought together in relatedgroups÷they must be rudely torn out of their true and natural environment, and divorced from thepsychological[18]atmosphere amidst which they were first presented by the narrator. The same objection applies to any plan ofdividing the evidence into (1) that which is purely legendary; (2) that which is second−hand or third−handevidence from people who claim to have seen fairies, or to have been in Fairyland or under fairy influences;and (3) that which is first−hand evidence from actual percipients: these three classes of evidence are soself−evident that every reader will be able to distinguish each class for himself as it occurs, and a mechanicalclassification by us is unnecessary. So no plan seems so good as the plan I have adopted of permitting allwitnesses to give their own testimony in their own way and in its native setting, and then of classifying andweighing such testimony according to the methods of comparative religion and the anthropological sciences.In most cases, as examination will show, the evidence is so clear that little or no comment is necessary. Mostof the evidence also points so much in one direction that. the only verdict which seems reasonable is that theFairy−Faith belongs to a doctrine of souls; that is to say, that Fairyland is a state or condition, realm or place,Taking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1) 20
  23. 23. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesvery much like, if not the same as, that wherein civilized and uncivilized men alike place the souls of thedead, in company with other invisible beings such as gods, daemons, and all sorts of good and bad spirits.Not only do both educated and uneducated Celtic seers so conceive Fairyland, but they go much further, andsay that Fairyland actually exists as an invisible world within which the visible world is immersed like anisland in an unexplored ocean, and that it is peopled by more species of living beings than this world, becauseincomparably more vast and varied in its possibilities.We should be prepared in hearing the evidence to meet with some contradictions and a good deal ofconfusion, for many of the people who believe in such a strange world as we have just described, and whothink they sometimes have entered it or have seen some of its inhabitants, have often had no training at all inschools or colleges. But when we hear legendary tales which have never been recorded save[19]in the minds of unnumbered generations of men, we ought not on that account to undervalue them; for oftenthey are better authorities and more trustworthy than many an ancient and carefully inscribed manuscript inthe British Museum; and they are probably far older than the oldest book in the world. Let us, then, for atime, forget that there are such things as libraries and universities, and betake ourselves to the Celtic peasantfor instruction, living close to nature as he lives, and thinking the things which he thinks.But the peasant will not be our only teacher, for we shall also hear much of first importance from city folk ofthe highest intellectual training. It has become, perhaps always has been in modern times, a widespreadopinion, even among some scholars, that the belief in fairies is the property solely of simple, uneducatedcountry−folk, and that people who have had a touch of education and a little common sense knocked intotheir heads, to use the ordinary language, wouldnt be caught believing in such nonsense. This same class ofcritics used to make similar remarks about people who said there were ghosts, until the truth of anotherstupid superstition was discovered by psychical research. So in this chapter we hope to correct this erroneousopinion about the Fairy−Faith, an opinion chiefly entertained by scholars and others who know not the firstreal fact about fairies, because they have never lived amongst the people who believe in fairies, but derive alltheir information from books and hearsay. In due order the proper sort of witnesses will substantiate thisposition, but before coming to their testimony we may now say that there are men and women in Dublin, inother parts of Ireland, in Scotland, in the Isle of Man, and in Brythonic lands too, whom all the world knowsas educated leaders in their respective fields of activity, who not only declare their belief that fairies were, butthat fairies are; and some of these men and women say that they have the power to see fairies as real spiritualbeings.In the evidence about to be presented there has been no selecting in favour of any one theory; it is presented as[20]discovered. The only liberty taken with some of the evidence has been to put it into better grammatical form,and sometimes to recast an ambiguous statement when I, as collector, had in my own mind no doubt as to itsmeaning. Translations have been made as literal as possible; though sometimes it has been found better tooffer the meaning rather than what in English would be an obscure colloquialism or idiomatic expression.The method pursued in seeking the evidence has been to penetrate as deeply and in as natural a way aspossible the thoughts of the people who believe in fairies and like beings, by living among them andobserving their customs and ways of thought, and recording what seemed relevant to the subject underinvestigation÷chance expressions, and legends told under various ordinary conditions ÷ rather than to collectlong legends or literary fairy−stories. For these last the reader is referred to the many excellent works onCeltic folk−lore. We have sought to bring together, as perhaps has not been done before, the philosophy ofthe belief in fairies, rather than the mere fairy−lore itself, though the two cannot be separated. In giving theTaking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1) 21
  24. 24. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesevidence concerning fairies, we sometimes give evidence which, though akin to it and thus worthy of record,is not strictly fairy−lore. All that we have omitted from the materials in the form first taken down are storiesand accounts of things not sufficiently related to the world of Faerie to be of value here.In no case has testimony been admitted from a person who was known to be unreliable, nor even from aperson who was thought to be unreliable. Accordingly, the evidence we are to examine ought to beconsidered good evidence so far as it goes; and since it represents almost all known elements of theFairy−Faith and contains almost all the essential elements upon which the advocates of the NaturalisticTheory, of the Pygmy Theory, of the Druid Theory, of the Mythological Theory, as well as of our ownPsychological Theory, must base their arguments, we consider it very adequate evidence. Nearly everywitness is a Celt who has been made acquainted with the belief in fairies[21]through direct contact with people who believe in them, or through having heard fairy−traditions among hisown kindred, or through personal psychological experiences. And it is exceedingly fortunate for us that anunusually large proportion of these Celtic witnesses are actual percipients and natural seers, because theeliminations from the Fairy−Faith to be brought about in chapter iii by means of an anthropological analysisof evidence will be so extensive that, scientifically and strictly speaking, there will remain as a residual orunknown quantity, upon which our final conclusion must depend, solely the testimony of reliableseer−witnesses. That is to say, no method of anthropological dissection of the evidence can force asideconsideration of the ultimate truth which may or may not reside in the testimony of sane and thoroughlyreliable seer−witnesses.Old and young, educated and uneducated, peasant and city−bred, testify to the actual existence of the CelticFairy−Faith; and the evidence from Roman Catholics stands beside that from Protestants, the evidence ofpriests supports that of scholars and scientists, peasant seers have testified to the same kind of visions ashighly educated seers; and what poets have said agrees with what is told by business men, engineers, andlawyers. But the best of witnesses, like ourselves, are only human, and subject to the shortcomings of theordinary man, and therefore no claim can be made in any case to infallibility of evidence: all the world overmen interpret visions pragmatically and sociologically, or hold beliefs in accord with their own personalexperiences; and are for ever unconsciously immersed in a sea of psychological influences which sometimesmay be explainable through the methods of sociological inquiry, sometimes may be supernormal in originand nature, and hence to be explained most adequately, if at all, through psychical research. Our study is astudy of human nature itself, and, moreover, often of human nature in its most subtle aspects, which arecalled psychical; and the most difficult problem of all is for human nature to interpret and understand its ownultimate essence and psychological[22]instincts. Our whole aim is to discover what reasonableness may or may not stand behind a belief so vast, soancient, so common (contrary to popular non−Celtic opinion) to all classes of Celts, and so fundamental ashaping force in European history, religion, and social institutions.When we state our conviction that the Fairy−Faith is common to all classes of Celts, we do not state that it iscommon to all Celts. The materialization of the age has affected the Fairy−Faith as it has affected allreligious beliefs the world over. This has been pointed out by Dr. Hyde, by Dr. Carmichael, and by Mr.Jenner in their respective introductions for Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall. Nevertheless, the Fairy−Faith asthe folk−religion of the Celtic peoples is still able to count its adherents by hundreds of thousands. Even inmany cases where Christian theology has been partially or wholly discarded by educated Celts, in the countryor in the city, as being to them in too many details out of harmony with accepted scientific truths, the belief inTaking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1) 22
  25. 25. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesfairies has been jealously retained, and will, so it would seem, be retained in the future.We are now prepared to hear about the Daoine Maithee, the Good People , as the Irish call their Sidhe race;about the People of Peace, the Still−Folk or the Silent Moving Folk , as the Scotch call their Sith who livein green knolls and in the mountain fastnesses of the Highlands; about various Manx fairies; about theTylwyth Teg, the Fair−Family or Fair−Folk, as the Welsh people call their fairies; about Cornish Pixies; andabout Fees (fairies), Corrigans, and the Phantoms of the Dead in Brittany. And along with these, for they arevery much akin, let us hear about ghosts ÷ sometimes about ghosts who discover hidden treasure, as in ourstory of the Golden Image ÷ about goblins, about various sorts of death−warnings generally coming fromapparitions of the dead, or from banshees, about death−candles and phantom−funerals, about leprechauns,about hosts of the air, and all kinds of elementals and spirits ÷ in short, about all the orders of beings whomingle together in that invisible realm called Fairyland.[23] II. IN IRELANDIntroduction by DOUGLAS HYDE, LL.D., D. Litt., M.R.I.A. (An Craoibhin Aoibhinn), President of theGaelic League; author of A Literary History of Ireland, &c.Whatever may be thought of the conclusions drawn by Mr. Wentz from his explorations into the Irishspirit−world, there can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the data from which he draws them. I have myselfbeen for nearly a quarter of a century collecting, off and on, the folk−lore of Western Ireland, not indeed inthe shape in which Mr. Wentz has collected it, but rather with an eye (partly for linguistic and literarypurposes) to its songs, sayings, ballads, proverbs, and sgalta, which last are generally the equivalent of theGerman MŠrchen, but sometimes have a touch of the saga nature about them. In making a collection of thesethings I have naturally come across a very large amount of folk−belief conversationally expressed, withregard to the good people and other supernatural manifestations, so that I can bear witness to the fidelitywith which Mr. Wentz has done his work on Irish soil, for to a great number of the beliefs which he records Ihave myself heard parallels, sometimes I have heard near variants of the stories, sometimes the identicalstories. So we may, I think, unhesitatingly accept his subject−matter, whatever, as I said, be the conclusionswe may deduce from them.The folk−tale (sean−sgal) or MŠrchen, which I have spent so much time in collecting, must not beconfounded with the folk−belief which forms the basis of Mr. Wentzs studies. The sgal or story issomething much more intricate, complicated, and thought−out than the belief. One can quite easilydistinguish between the two. One (the belief) is short, conversational, chiefly relating to real people, andcontains no great sequence of incidents, while the other (the folk−tale) is long, complicated, more or lessconventional, and above all has its interest grouped around a single central figure, that of the hero or heroine.I may make this plainer by an example. Let us go into a cottage on the mountain−side, as[24]Mr. Wentz and I have done so often, and ask the old man of the house if he ever heard of such things asfairies, and he will tell you that there is fairies in it surely. Didnt his own father see the "forth" (1) beyondfull of them, and he passing by of a moonlight night and a little piper among them, and he playing music thatmortal man never heard the like? or hell tell you that he himself wouldnt say agin fairies for it s often heTaking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1) 23
  26. 26. The Fairy−Faith in Celtic Countriesheard their music at the old bush behind the house. Ask what the fairies are like, and he will tell you ÷ well,pretty much what Mr. Wentz tells us. From this and the like accounts we form our ideas of fairies and fairymusic, of ghosts, mermaids, pucas, and so on, but there is no sequence of incidents, no hero, no heroine, nostory.Again, ask the old man if he knows eer a sean−sgal (story or MŠrchen), and he will ask you at once, Didyou ever hear the Speckled Bull; did you ever hear the Well at the end of the world; did you ever hear theTailor and the Three Beasts; did you ever hear the Hornless Cow? Ask him to relate one of these, and if youget him in the right vein, which may be perhaps one time in ten, or if you induce the right vein, which youmay do perhaps nine times out of ten, you will find him begin with a certain gravity and solemnity at the verybeginning, thus, There was once, in old times and in old times it was, a king in Ireland; or perhaps a manwho married a second wife; or perhaps a widow woman with only one son: and the tale proceeds to recountthe life and adventures of the heroes or heroines, whose biographies told in Irish in a sort of stereotyped formmay take from ten minutes to half an hour to get through. Some stories would burn out a dip candle in thetelling, or even last the whole night. But these stories have little or nothing to say to the questions raised inthis book.The problem we have to deal with is a startling one, as thus put before us by Mr. Wentz. Are these beings ofthe spirit world real beings, having a veritable existence of their own, in a world of their own, or are they onlythe creation(1) Anglo−Irish for rath, a circular earthen fort.[25]of the imagination of his informants, and the tradition of bygone centuries? The newspaper, the NationalSchool, and the Zeitgeist have answered to their own entire satisfaction that these things are imagination pureand simple. Yet this off−hand condemnation does not always carry with it a perfect conviction. We do notdoubt the existence of tree−martins or kingfishers, although nine hundred and ninety−nine people out ofevery thousand pass their entire lives without being vouchsafed a glimpse of them in their live state; and mayit not be the same with the creatures of the spirit world, may not they also exist, though to only one in athousand it be vouchsafed to behold them? The spirit creatures cannot be stuffed and put into museums, likerare animals and birds, whose existence we might doubt of if we had not seen them there; yet they may existjust as such animals and birds do, though we cannot see them. I, at least, have often been tempted to think so.But the following considerations, partly drawn from comparative folk−lore, have made me hesitate aboutdefinitely accepting any theory.In the first place, then, viewing the Irish spirit−world as a whole, we find that it contains, even on Mr.Wentzs showing, quite a number of different orders of beings, of varying shapes, appearances, size, andfunctions. Are we to believe that all those beings equally exist, and, on the principle that there can be nosmoke without a fire, are we to hold that there would be no popular conception of the banshee, theleprechaun, or the Maighdean−mhara (sea−maiden, mermaid), and consequently no tales told about them, ifsuch beings did not exist, and from time to time allow themselves to be seen like the wood−martin and thekingfisher? This question is, moreover, further complicated by the belief in the appearance of things that areor appear to be inanimate objects, not living beings, such as the deaf coach or the phantom ship in full sail,the appearance of which Mr. Yeats has immortalized in one of his earliest and finest poems.Again, although the bean−sidhe (banshee), leprechaun, puca, and the like are the most commonly known andusuallyTaking of Evidence (Section I Chapter II part 1) 24

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